Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. Duh.


Up around the northwest vicinity of Konoha, the slapped-together genin recon team of Neji, Tenten, Shino, and Kiba was just about ready to start its patrol route through the village's industrial zone. It was full-fledged night time now, and although the air temperature was reasonably moderate due to the early summer season, the rainfall was decidedly brisk. Thus, the genins had been forced to take cover underneath a makeshift corrugated tin roof at an ongoing construction site, as they finalized their preparations for the two-hour B-rank mission.

Shino was the first one done with his preparations (he didn't have much to do, since he was always prepared), and he stepped away from the other three, so that he now stood just underneath the edge of the roof, as close as he could be without exposing himself to the rain. Those sunglasses stared out into the shadows. Not really able to see anything into the darkness veiled by the streaking water drops.

The rain was dominating. It was almost all he could see out there. It was most definitely all he could hear. A staccato hollow was what he heard, as countless liquid globes hurtled down from the heavens to impact against the overhead roof. A drum roll of bleak, the sticks rapping hopelessly and endlessly. So appropriate, really, all things considered. Mind numbed. Empty. Half-constructed buildings and thoughts strewn about haphazardly. Numbing emptiness spreading slowly from the core of his body... a few words flooded throughout his mind now, and they drowned away the rain for the moment.

"I should have said more."

Shino did not say this out loud, of course. He always kept things to himself - a defining trait which usually served him well. But on occasion, his overwhelming instinct to keep himself sealed away from the outside, it did prove to be frustrating. And now was one of those occasional moments.

"I should have said more" his quiet inner voice said, a voice as quiet as his outer voice. "She made her choice. She made this clear to me. Yet I remained closed."

He had been breathing gently, rhythmically, through the nose. But now a single gusty irritated puff expelled from the nostrils, as he stared out hard into the night, the icy stare blistering anything which might be casting an unwelcome eye upon him.

"I should have said more."

"Hey Shino"

At the call of his name, the bug boy turned his head to see Kiba and Tenten squatting conspiratorially on the ground, while Neji stood off to the side much like Shino, also staring out into the rain with his arms crossed and Byakugan activated, presumably scanning the area for incoming perpetrators.

Kiba was the one who had yelled Shino's name, big surprise, and he zealously waved for Shino to huddle up with him and Tenten, as he called out again"Hey, you got spare kunai on you, right"

"Yes, I do." Shino took a look at the ground between Kiba and Tenten, and he raised a curious eyebrow. "Why do you need spare kunai"

Shino's curiosity was understandable, because there were already nearly a hundred kunai resting on the packed dirt, arranged in two staggeringly long rows. Even as he watched, Tenten was still not done, retrieving more and more kunai from her opened backpack.

Kiba shrugged at Shino's question, as he stuck a rather rude finger towards Tenten. "I dunno, ask her. She's the one who wants more kunai."

Tenten, now wearing an ivy green jacket of sorts to protect her normally bare arms, ignored the dog boy, counting under her breath as she laid more kunai down, pair by pair. "Ninety two, ninety four, ninety six..." She grunted as she checked her now-empty backpack for any weaponry she might have missed. Then she looked up to Shino. "Kiba said that you would have some extra kunai. Can you spare four more"

"No problem." In the blink of an eye, Shino had flushed open his looming blue coat towards Tenten in a manner vaguely similar as to how a bare-bodied pervert in a trench coat would flash a horrified woman. "What do you need"

"Oh ho." The eyes of Tenten, the weapons enthusiast-bordering-on-fanatic, fairly glowed as she surveyed the interior of Shino's coat. As far as her eyes could see into the depths of his parka, there were rows and rows of gleaming well-oiled steel, the steel shaped and smithed into various implements of death and destruction. Mostly throwing kunai, but there were also standard kunai, two-way kunai, standard shuriken, senbon needles... she even caught a glimpse of three folded windmill shurikens hanging way back there... in a way, the rows of fanged steel reminded her of predatory teeth. If she had been farther away and under the influence of some hallucinogenic mind-altering substance, she would have sworn that the mouth of a silver-toothed demon lurked inside the murky lair of Shino's coat.

She asked rather expectantly"Can you lend me four throwing kunai"

Shino squatted down and began to hand off the requested kunai to her. "No problem."

"Hey Shino, you got a wristwatch in there you can sell to me"

That was Kiba, of course, and Shino shook his head very seriously. "No, Kiba, I do not have any watches for sale."

Tenten smiled at the interaction between the male members of Team Eight, as she briefly tested the weight and balance of each kunai Shino had given her. Standard-issue Konoha throwing kunai, she told herself. Excellent. She would have no problems using weapons of such familiar specifications. "Thanks a bunch, Shino. I suppose you're also a fan of good old fashioned throwing steel"

"I am."

"A recent fan, you mean." Kiba was standing up now. "This guy didn't use to carry all those things before, but ever since he fought that puppet guy, he's been a walking armory ever since."

Tenten's curiosity was piqued. "Really? Why is that, Shino"

"A ninja never reveals his secrets."

She grinned at that. "Ok then, suit yourself "

"Blah blah blah! Never reveals his secrets! Blah" Kiba made sure to flap his lips towards Shino. "I dunno what sort of secret jutsu you got with kunai, Shino, but come on, it can't be that special"

"Oh, I disagree, there are quite a few things you can do with good ol' throwing steel." Tenten emphasized her words with a flourish, as she now unfurled an excessively lengthy scroll from her belt pouch. "Watch and learn, Kiba."

Kiba and Akamaru obediently sat back down to watch, but Shino was not particularly interested. His assistance no longer required, he stood up and headed back to the roof's edge once again. He was back to watching the rain. Buttoning up his coat as he listened to the tinny hollow staccato...

Shino appeared to be spacing out in a zen-like manner, focusing on nothing, cleansing his mind of everything. But nothing could be further from the truth, for his mind was hardly at peace. It was tight, tense, and worried. He worried as his bugs passed information on to him, as they constantly updated him on her movements. Still inside the Hokage building, they told him. She was still inside the Hokage building, which was a good thing. So long as she stayed in there like the Hokage had told her to do, she could not possibly be in any danger -

He winced. Had she just left the building? He held his breath and closed his eyes, as his mind abruptly achieved that zen state of solitude. His mind was now released from virtually all outside distractions and concerns. Bothering to sift only through the constantly incoming bits and pieces of data from his mutualistic partners...

A tight grunt. He was sure of it now. She had left the building. She was now outside, and she was moving slowly but surely away from the Hokage tower. At least she was heading east, and not towards the location of the explosion which had occurred in the western part of Konoha. But still, the fact that she was outside at all, it was disconcerting. That was not the behavior of a person in full control of herself. She was upset, he said to himself. So upset that, despite the Hokage's order, she had buckled and broken down underneath the overwhelming urge to do something, anything, anything but stand still in one place...

She was upset with him. To be expected, really, even though he had tried at the last moment. Just before she had left the Hokage's office, he had tried to tell her that he cared. Tried to tell her that if she wanted or needed, he could walk with her, be with her, and do whatever he could to help (although, quite honestly, he had no idea how to handle a hysterically crying woman, since none of his textbooks had ever mentioned anything about how to deal with such a crisis).

He was almost sure that she had gotten the message, too, even though the only paltry words he had managed to force out of his irritatingly taciturn lips was her name. He was almost positive that she understood what he had meant to say. But there was still doubt. And the doubt, infinitely small upon its inception, was now growing stronger with each passing second. Gnawing away from the inside, feeding upon the inconclusiveness of the wordless gaze which he and Sakura had shared just before she had closed the door behind her...

He was positive that her currently random wanderings were spurred on by this lingering doubt. This restlessness, compelled by wrenching heartache and unfulfilled desires... if someone as stable as himself could be rattled by such a thing, he was almost afraid to imagine what it would do to someone like Sakura-san... yes, he knew that she was strong in many ways... but so fragile in others...

He suddenly realized something. Since she was heading east, he had naturally assumed that she was heading home, since that was where her residence was located. But now, while his bugs continued to update him on her status, enabling his brain to constantly adjust and refine the projected trajectory of her path... he realized that possibly, just possibly, she might be heading for the hospital. Where Uchiha Sasuke was.

This was no certainty, of course. But still... the mere thought of her going back to Uchiha Sasuke...

The cheeks drew taut. Damn it. He should have said more.


Notes: Ok, this chapter is awful short mostly because of one terrible reason: I have lost virtually all inspiration for this story. What you just read above, I wrote most of it a long time ago when I still had the inspiration working for me. However, over the couple weeks, I haven't been able to get in the right mindset. I can't instill any emotion behind my words. I must have started and stopped a hundred times, only to find that it is just not clicking for me.

There is a pretty good chance I will come back to this story. After all, I already have the outline, the ideas, the ending... it's all laid out in front of me. I just don't have the ability to flesh it out right now. Time for me to go hunting for a muse.